diningA triumph of a meal, Ellina was a culinary tour de force that illustrated why food is truly an art and demonstrated the outcome of dedicated passion.

Tucked below street level, the path to the entrance is charming and shelters this Northern Italian inspired venue with a subtle mystique.

Greeted warmly, we were guided through a pair of ‘secret’ doors that led us into a beautiful side room. Stone walls that illuminated the mining history of Aspen were a gorgeous touch, and the table was meticulous and refined.

The 5 of us settled around the table, and enjoyed the experienced and delightful persona of Craig, our server for the evening. Throughout the night he executed the front end of Chef Dena Marino’s menu with grace.

Starting with the fresh garden greens, the scattered cambozola cheese brought a creamy touch to a crisp salad and the poignant cranberry vinaigrette drizzled lightly over the dish brought together the multiple flavors in harmony.

Then the real fun began… Never have I ever dined where such an intense game of plate merry go round consumed the table due to the overwhelming masterpieces we were experiencing.

Ellina summer menu 2010.  Aspen, ColoradoI rode into the Pan Seared Gigante Scallops which hit perfection. Each scallop was pan fried to a delicate touch, leaving them golden, buttery and kept form to be some of the best I have ever had. The port demi glace sauce was mesmerizing and instinctively made your eyes close to help you endure the memory of each bite.

The plate was topped with crispy parsnips that gave a needed crunch to the light dish and the bed of cranberry steamed rice brought a touch of sweet. The dish was a knock out, and should be a ‘forever’.

Other notable dishes were the Rummo Rigatoni in a rich pink sauce and the Ricotta Butternut Squash Ravioli topped with crispy duck confit. Let me tell you, the plates were moving around the table fast and they were clean white by the end.

A chocolate budino with cinnamon sour cream and caramel sauce finished the night and you couldn’t find 5 happier people in Aspen.

Oh did I mention that Giada de Laurentiis was sitting next to us as well!? She. Is. Stunning.

Chef Dena Marino, you have crafted a legendary menu here, and I can only dream of being able to fly out to Aspen weekly to partake in your dishes.

Sometimes all it takes is a week to make a year, and this week made mine.

Bra-VO.

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